Indeed, heads must roll over MT Tuma

Since 2000, when it was designated the most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International, it would seem that Nigeria has not looked back and does not appear in any hurry to do so in that respect, regardless of government’s pronouncements suggesting otherwise. If anything, matters seem only to be progressively getting from bad to worst with preceding revelation of corruption paling in significance to the next, so much that Nigerians have long ceased to be scandalized by the monumental corruption emanating from the corridors of power in the country.

Even the government’s much mouthed fight against corruption is more of public relations gimmicks aimed at deceiving Nigerians and the international community than any policy thrust designed to address this all-consuming cankerworm that is gradually but surely pushing the nation to the brink. Not surprisingly, at the center of most of the corruption scandals is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the so-called cash cow of the economy.

The recent revelation of the plan by the NNPC to sell off M. T. Tuma, an oil vessel owned by Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), after over $60million has allegedly been wasted on its maintenance has rightly attracted the attention and anger of the National Assembly (NASS) and the NGO Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL).

The alarm to sell off the vessel was raised in the House of Representatives by Hon. Mudashiru Akinlabi who alleged that, “after several contracts were awarded for the maintenance of the said vessel with money paid out to various companies without any work done, Tuma is now lying idle on the high seas and not in good condition to perform any function after the NNPC had spent at least $60m of tax payers’ money. Now the NNPC management/PPMC is considering a total disposal of the ship, which will lead to a total loss exceeding $70m.”

Commenting on the development, the Executive Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to address the endemic corruption in the Nigerian oil sector, saying that, “It is high time President Goodluck Jonathan put down his feet to address the rot that is bedeviling our oil sector.  Many reports by various committees have revealed that NNPC is a cesspit of corruption in this country.”

Indeed, this endemic corruption in the Nigerian oil sector was laid bare by the report of the 17-man Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force under the chairmanship of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, which exposed massive corruption, with hundreds of millions of dollars unaccounted for.

According to the report, ministers of petroleum Resources between 2008 and 2011 had handed out seven discretionary oil licences, but that $183m in signature bonuses was nowhere to be found, with three of the licences awarded since the incumbent minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke was appointed in 2010.

The report also suggested that Nigeria “may have lost $29billion in the last decade in the sweet-heart gas deals with major oil companies, such as Shell and Total, just as crude oil theft is reaching an alarming level of 250,000 barrels daily at a cost of $6.3billion a year”. Set up in February last year, the committee submitted the report in September, since after which nothing more has been heard about, confirming fears earlier expressed by skeptics who believed that government would not muster the courage to implement its recommendations.

And against the backdrop of the endemic corruption that has become a byword for the oil industry, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources is busy wasting millions of dollars with impunity on self-serving advertisement on on-line media trumpeting the minister’s achievements.

The plan to sell off MT Tuma is hardly surprising as it is consistent with the corruption-ridden sector, where it has long become a habit to place some primordial considerations over and above national interest.

We are one with the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders that it was about time President Jonathan addressed the endemic corruption in the oil sector, and a good place to start is the criminal plan to dispose MT Tuma. Those found wanting must not be spared the rod.

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